Thursday, February 11, 2021

NU (Don Cherry, Edward Blackwell, Carlos Ward, Nana Vasconcelos, Mark Helias) Live in Glasgow (February 2021)

NU was a moniker that Don Cherry employed as the title of the cooperative group that he initiated with Edward Blackwell, Carlos Ware, Nana Vasconcelos and myself in the mid 80's. It actually means “now” in Swedish which is where he created a second home with his wife Moki who was Swedish.

The word “now” is probably the most appropriate description of where Don resided; very much an improviser in the now. In this group, everyone functioned in the now and we moved through and into the music dependent on what everyone decided to do; aural cues were often the currency of the moment. It was a great band with the hydra-like percussion section of Blackwell and Nana.

They played so well together and created what often sounded like a true drum ensemble with many more than two members. Carlos Ward, with whom I worked in Edward Blackwell’s group, is an important composer as well as a wonderful improviser. His pieces formed the backbone of this group.

Don was the leader on stage just by the nature of his presence and playful nature; we would often take musical cues from him while making sudden turns into songs that were sometimes unfamiliar to some of us, but we played them anyway. Additionally, he and Nana did a lot of vocalizing in this band which lent the music a more immediate humanity. We also had a lot of fun traveling, hanging out and dealing with the vagaries of the road.

This particular recording was made live in Glasgow, Scotland on October 24th 1987. The performance took place at the Henry Wood Hall and it was part of a tour comprising twelve concerts sponsored by the British Arts Council. In my computer files I found a digitized stereo file of the concert which was probably made from an analog board recording. The beginning of Art Deco is cutoff so the first music we hear is the second chorus of the head. The technicians were probably getting audio levels and missed the beginning of the concert.

At the end of this recording while Lito is being played under Don’s announcement of the musicians, the music also suddenly cut off for which I can offer no explanation. I left these incompletions as they are thankful for the amount of music recovered from this wonderful concert. NU functioned as a true musical cooperative with everyone offering pieces for the repertoire and everyone stepping out and shining at various points.

One of my favorite moments on this recording is Blackwell’s drum solo on Carlos’ piece, Pettiford Bridge. The kaleidoscopic metrical multiples are a joy to listen to as they poetically paint over the fixed bass line.

Personally, playing in NU with these gentlemen was an unmitigated joy for me. Mark Helias, 2021

1. Art Deco (Don Cherry) 7:21
2. Pettiford Bridge (Carlos Ward)
3. Dousson Gouni/Bird Boy (Don Cherry, Nana Vasconcelos 10:01
4. First Love (Carlos Ward) 3:27
5. Pitchfield Blues (Mark Helias) 6:47
6. Nana solo/Don Tune2/Lito (Don Cherry)(Carlos Ward) 6:01

Live performance recorded in Glasgow Scotland October 24, 1987
Post Production and Mastering – Mark Helias

Tracks 2,4 and 6 by Carlos Ward (Lito Publishing Company BMI)
Tracks 1 and 3 and 6 by Don Cherry (Eternal River Publishing BMI)
Track 5 by Mark Helias (Radio Legs Music BMI, GEMA)

Don Cherry – trumpet, dousson gouni, voice
Edward Blackwell – drums, percussion
Nana Vasconcelos – birembau, percussion, voice
Carlos Ward – alto saxophone, flute
Mark Helias – double bass

Jane Ira Bloom / Mark Helias - Some Kind of Tomorrow (2021)

Some Kind of Tomorrow

We didn’t have to write anything.
We didn’t have to plan anything.
We didn’t even have to talk.
We just had to play -
to connect with each other
across a distance in whatever way we could
because we had to.
It was just too hard to be a sound alone.
A sound needed another sound
- and so Mark & I began.

Soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom and bassist Mark Helias come together to create duets discovered in the moment in a way that is rarely heard today with Some Kind of Tomorrow. The long time bandmates, separated by space and time find a way to play in real time with one another and the results are magical. Two master improvisers and composers bring listeners up-close and personal to the first spark of their imaginations at work, recording eleven duet improvisations over the spring, summer, and fall of 2020. The music is raw, authentic, intimate, alive, and unapologetic in its passion. Their sound is deep wood and polished brass recorded with a depth that is hard to describe. They played the music, recorded it, mastered it firsthand and are now making it available to listeners for the first time as a digital download on Bandcamp. Don’t miss these fearless jazz explorers as they face the future.

“Here are the improvised duets that bassist Mark Helias and I created in the spring, summer, and fall of 2020 on the internet. The thought of a world without a live, spontaneous musical connection was too hard to imagine and so we came to these sessions over the internet with an emotional thirst that’s hard to describe. The music is discovered in the moment in a way that I’ve never recorded before. The sound is filled with everything that we felt and couldn’t say in words. There is a vibration between us that’s uncanny given the circumstances and a deep need to play what was real to us just then. It’s as real as it gets for two musicians who needed to create music together to try to find some way to mend the world.” Jane Ira Bloom
“In unprecedented times artists resort to unprecedented strategies to fulfill the need to create and relate. Being locked down has reframed my appreciation of the act of musical interaction and reaffirmed the decision that I made decades ago to explore music as a life’s work. The first time that Jane and I improvised together through Wi-Fi sometime in April or May 2020 was a very high experience on so many levels. We were sorting out the possibilities of making music remotely and assessing the technology and our relation to it. Once we made peace with the situation and the medium, listening, feeling, hearing and responding was the same as it ever was. Without a live audience we decided to complete the circle by documenting our efforts through recordings that we are now sharing with the public. This process has been enlivening in ways that I had not anticipated.” Mark Helias
1. Some Kind of Tomorrow 04:17
2. Magic Carpet 07:04
3. Early Rites 04:24
4. Willing 05:50
5. Traveling Deep 03:30
6. Roughing It 09:28
7. Far Satellites 06:07
8. Pros and Cons 05:54
9. Drift 04:56
10. Star Talk 05:18
11. First Canvas 01:02

Jane Ira Bloom - soprano saxophone
Mark Helias - double bass

© 2020 All compositions by Mark Helias & Jane Ira Bloom

Mark Helias Radio Legs Music/BMI
Jane Ira Bloom Outline Music/ BMI

Recorded by Mark Helias & Jane Ira Bloom
Mixed & mastered by Mark Helias
Cover Photography - Claudia Barritt
Cover Design - Mark Helias

Tom Sochas - You could hear the bird sing (2021)

The music was written during the first UK lockdown, in April 2020, following the Covid-19 pandemic. The anxieties suffered due to the spread of the virus and the hope which emerged from a collective shift in perspective soon blossomed into new music. Once the music was sketched out, Tom got in contact with some of his favorite London based musicians and began to think about if, and how, one could go about recording a jazz record remotely. What followed was a arduous process of back and forth to attempt to recreate an as close to possible in vivo experience. Layering over each other’s perfomances once, and then again after another musican’s ‘reaction performance’, allowed for true interaction and improvisation.

1. FSAT 03:28
2. Tryptich 03:41
3. Tenzing 03:23
4. Outward 03:40
5. Cypress 04:39

All music written and arranged by Tom Sochas

Tom Sochas - Piano, Philicorda, Synthesizers, Guitar, Percussion
Laurie Carpenter - Trumpet
Sebastian Maniura - Bass
Olly Sarkar - Drums, Percussion

KALI Trio - LOOM (March 19, 2021)

“...a cataclysmic blast of stunning and emotionally cathartic driving energy...” -

 KALI Trio is a Swiss post-genre band. They function as a collective, with every member contributing equally to the writing and creative processes. Their original score for Thomas Imbach’s movie NEMESIS will arrive in 2021.

LOOM is the second album by KALI trio and shows the consequent development of the original style of the working band. The three Swiss musicians Nicolas Stocker (Drums), Urs Müller (E-Gitarre) und Raphael Loher (Piano) weave the various threads of their stylistic background together with relish and fresh skillfulness on their musical loom. The music, created together as an organism, is continuously charged in the four tracks and in the overall dramaturgy of the album and unfolds its rhythmic pull and its mysterious atmosphere in a subtle and inexorable manner.

LOOM consists of only four compositions, but clocks in at a few seconds short of the 45 minute mark! It’s a beast in scope, but airy (literally) in feel, hence easy to inhale. Each piece plays like the equivalent of a time-lapse of a looming cloud formation – a liquid progression of shifting shapes, changing density as well as shadow and light play. By the virtue of working with subtle iterations of form and using extended swaths of time as the equivalent of a large-scale canvas, the material evokes the mechanics of trance music. The creative use of sound design and general choice of spartan aesthetics, albeit executed using acoustic instruments, emphasize styles club-inclined and tasteful. The overall effect is cinematic and mesmeric; a sonic documentation of a daydream unraveling.

Although the music is emotionally gripping – defined by a dance-floor drive and a thick cinematic atmosphere – it’s hard not to notice the craftsmanship and the skill level involved in bringing these songs to life. The song “Folding Space,” for example, is based on a pattern in 19/8 that turns around on the offbeat against the quarter note. “Shipol,” on the other hand, is predicated on constantly shifting piano, snare and bass drum accents, which make the song feel as if it were performed in 7/16, and not the standard 4/4 that it is.

When asked to describe their music, the band came up with: “It falls somewhere between T.C. Boyle’s prose and Tarkovsky’s dream-like images.” It makes sense! Because the point is not to wow listeners with technique, but to create an experience via deep affect.

Text: Lukasz Polowczyk

SHIPOL 11:25


DRY SOUL 08:09


TOTAL: 45:12

Raphael Loher: Piano

Urs Müller: Guitar

Nicolas Stocker: Drums


Jesse Ryan - Bridges

The debut recording of saxophonist and composer Jesse Ryan entitled Bridges, is an eclectic and honest offering that straddles both jazz and Afro-Caribbean traditions - A true celebration of the cultural, rhythmic and expressive connections between North America and the islands of the Caribbean.

His Bridges project was formed in 2016 to explore his passion for composing, performing, and recording music that celebrated his Trinbagonian heritage and love for the jazz tradition. The album features nine tracks that are either an idiomatic bridge between musical traditions or was written to present an idea in the form of an anecdotal narrative that encourages the listener to evolve by bridging the gap between their former and future selves.

Three of the tracks on the album feature Tambrin drumming, performed by members of the Mt. Cullane Tambrin Band - a drumming tradition from Jesse’s homeland that is unique to the island of Tobago and has remained largely unchanged from when it began in colonial times. A Tambrin band normally includes five musicians playing three frame drums (three shallow goatskin drums, one triangle and one violin or harmonica. The first of the three is the opening track of the album, Big Ole Shoes, a medium-tempo Jig. The second, Right To Be Wrong, a slow, ballad-like rhythm referred to as the Brush Back, and the third, Sons Of The Soil, (S.O.T.S) an up-tempo Reel.

In keeping with the goal of bridging cultures, this project brings together some of the finest young musicians from Toronto, Canada and Trinidad and Tobago and was co-produce by the Grammy Award winning drummer, musician Larnell Lewis.

For more info:

1. Big Ole' Shoes (Featuring Mt. Cullane Tambrin Band) 06:46
2. Bridges 06:37
3. Zambian Offertory (Featuring Joanna Majoko) 04:06
4. Right To Be Wrong Prelude (Featuring Brainerd Blyden-Taylor) 00:51
5. Right To Be Wrong (Featuring Mt. Cullane Tambrin Band) 05:31
6. The Way (Featuring Joanna Majoko) 05:21
7. Seeds 04:42
8. S.O.T.S Prelude (Featuring Ewen Farncombe and Mt. Cullane Tambrin Band) 00:44
9. S.O.T.S (Featuring Mt. Cullane Tambrin Band) 04:07

Jesse Ryan - Saxophones, Composer, Percussion (track 2)
Joanna Majoko - Voice (tracks 3, 6)
Lucian Gray - Guitar (tracks 6,7)
Sean Clarey - Guitar (tracks 2, 3)
Andrew Marzotto - Guitar (tracks 1, 9)
Ewen Farncombe - Piano, Fender Rhodes
Marc Rogers - Bass (all tracks}
David Richards - Drums (all tracks)
Nicolas Frangini-Salvo - Congas (track 7)
Mt. Cullane Tambrin Band (tracks 1, 5, 9)

Phil Nimmons - To The Nth (The Nimmons Tribute)

To The Nth by The Nimmons Tribute honours the legacy of Canada’s living jazz legend Phil Nimmons O.C., O. Ont. The album brings vintage Phil compositions through new arrangements by grandson, pianist and composer Sean Nimmons.

To The Nth features some of Canada’s greatest musicians, many of whom are JUNO Award winners. The Nimmons Tribute led by Sean consists of former students, colleagues, friends and family, who have come together to celebrate Phil through his music.

The Nimmons Tribute consists of former students, colleagues, friends and family of Phil Nimmons who have come together to honour Phil through his music.

1. Nufsicisum 07:51

2. Night Crawler 08:55

3. Harbours (from the Atlantic Suite) 05:52

4. Swing Softly 04:45

5. Holly 07:58

6. Sands of Time 07:27

7. Rista's Vista 05:26

8. Liëse 07:06

Kevin Turcotte - trumpet, flugelhorn

Tara Davidson - alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet

Mike Murley - tenor saxophone

William Carn - trombone

Perry White - baritone saxophone, bass clarinet

Sean Nimmons - piano, Fender Rhodes

Jon Maharaj - bass

Ethan Ardelli - drums

All songs composed by Phil Nimmons, except “Rista’s Vista” composed by Sean Nimmons

All songs arranged and produced by Sean Nimmons